Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prayer for the New Year

I borrow the words of Dominic Mendonca, OP

“I wish and pray that the message of kindness which Luke brings out so emphatically in the voyage narrative may reach all humanity.” Quoted from the Preface of Shipwreck and Providence, The Mission Programme of Acts 27-28.

As we begin our fourth year of blogging, I do want to wish every one a Happy New Year. I hope to provide my readers with a number of new and provocative articles to read in the new year.

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Josephus and the Angels

That the law was given by the angels is a well attested tradition that we found in the New Testament and Josephus. Therefore it would seem strange to suggest Josephus has rewritten part of sacred scripture to change and/or eliminate references to angels. However, it is clear that he did so in his rewriting of the Book of Daniel. For some reason Josephus removed the two references to the archangel Gabriel. Consequently we need to investigate further to ascertain the reason why Gabriel appears in the Book of Daniel and the Gospel of Luke but not in the writings of Josephus. As noted in Rewriting Sacred Scriptures, Josephus has altered tests relating to personalities that only appear in Luke-Acts. This is yet another example.

Copyrighted 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blue lights

There are many reasons for installing blue lights at this time of the year. Some people do so to honor the men and women in blue uniforms; others because they are Penn State fans. The most important reason is the one that is least stated because people have forgotten the real reason why we celebrate Christmas. My blue lights announce that a child is born who is the Messiah.

So while I am thinking about Blue Lights and Santa Lucia, deadlines in the office have grabbed my attention. I will be working overtime and I still have Christmas shopping to do!

Merry Christmas!

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In her heart

One verse in Daniel 7 interests me: “As for me Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance was changed: but I kept the matter in my heart.” This same idea is expressed by Mary in two different verses. In Lk. 2:19 we read: “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Later at the end of chapter two we read: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” These two verses may form an inclusio.

When Dunn indicated that Luke toned down the Danielic allusions to chapter 7, did he consider Luke 1:32-33?

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” These two verses strongly allude to Daniel 7:13-14.

Luke certainly was thinking about Daniel 7 as he crafted his masterpiece.

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rewriting Daniel 7

Waiting on tables, the lengthy series on Acts 6 and 7 of Acts of the Apostles, has provided me new insight with respect to one particular interpretation of Daniel 7. 1st century Judaism interpreted Daniel 7 as a prediction that a messiah will come who will lead Israel in military victory against her oppressors. The Lucan Jesus rewrites Daniel 7 saying in effect that they [the twelve disciples] who serve like him will be the new role models. This role reversal, where the Host waits on tables, was not the eschatological reversal that was expected to happen.

Dunn believes that Luke has rewritten Mark to weaken the allusions to Daniel 7. This interpretation is undermined by the simple observation that Luke is the only New Testament writer to mention the angel Gabriel who as God’s messenger reveals divine mysteries to Daniel and Zechariah. Luke wants the First Reader to understand what Jesus actually preached about Daniel. It was not what the zealots wanted to hear. It is more likely that Luke is the original version because the Lucan Jesus has combined two unrelated traditions in a unique way to provide a pacifist servant reading of Daniel 7 to and about the disciples consistent with the Sermon on the Plains. It is important to note that only the Lucan Jesus restores the ear of the servant of the high priest. He abhors violence.

Luke 22:24-30 is the more difficult reading. Mark has based 10:35-45 on Lk. 22:24-27 while Matthew has based 19:27-29 on Lk. 22:28-30. Both Matthew and Mark have included an explicit allusion to Dan 7:13 in the public colloquy with the High Priest. Finally Matthew has also expanded the number Daniel allusions.

Luke is not without its Danielic influences. In a saying found only in Luke, Jesus says “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This saying is based upon Daniel 2:37 or 7:13-14 and is combined with the sheep being the followers of Jesus. Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke has located his “Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” in a private teaching to the disciples.

Until the time of his morning trial before the High Priest, Jesus has avoided publicly declaring that he is the Messiah, though his disciples knew. Nevertheless, popular speculation in Jerusalem had been rampant that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah. But when asked directly, Jesus prefers the less politically-charged title “Son of Man.”

“‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’
Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer....’”

In Matthew and Mark's account, Jesus answers their question about whether he is the Christ before he goes on to speak of the Son of Man. In Luke, Jesus points to their unbelief: “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.” They do not really want to know the answer. They just want Jesus to admit it so they can accuse him of being a political threat to Rome.

But Lucan Jesus does not end the colloquy with the question of whether he is the Messiah. He points to his favorite title, “Son of Man.” “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of God.” This is a reference to the glorious reign of the Son of Man at God's right hand found in Daniel's prophecy:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14).

“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’ Then they said, ‘Why do we need any more testimony?’” Notice Jesus' answer is somewhat ambiguous. The KJV renders the Greek quite literally: “Ye say that I am.” Marshall gives the sense of it:

“The form of expression is not a direct affirmation; but it is certainly not a denial, and is best regarded as a grudging admission with the suggestion that the speaker would put it otherwise or that the questioners fail to understand exactly what they are asking.”

The new interpretation of Daniel presented by the Lucan Jesus portrayed the Messiah as a king but not totally of this world. The High priest and the members of the Sanhedrin did not understand that the kingdom was more comprehensive than David ever imagined. According to Bock, the indirect reference to himself as Son of Man is really an allusion to the authoritative figure of Daniel 7. Consequently the real power and glory belongs to the man condemned by the High Priest.

See my Son of Man in Luke (2-10-06) and The High Priest as a Divine Mediator (2-20-06).

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Last Speech of Mattathias

With the Greek phrase κοπετν μέγαν for “great lamentation”, Luke alludes to the death and burial of Jacob in Genesis 50:10 LXX and of Mattathias in 1 Maccabees 2:70 and perhaps also to their last speeches.

Mattathias said to his sons: “Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our fathers. Remember the deeds of the fathers, which they did in their generations; and receive great honor and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness? Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment, and became lord of Egypt. Phinehas our father, because he was deeply zealous, received the covenant of everlasting priesthood. Joshua, because he fulfilled the command, became a judge in Israel. Caleb, because he testified in the assembly, received an inheritance in the land. David, because he was merciful, inherited the throne of the kingdom for ever. Elijah because of great zeal for the law was taken up into heaven. Hannaniah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved from the flame. Daniel because of his innocence was delivered from the mouth of the lions. And so observe, from generation to generation, that none who put their trust in him will lack strength.”

This speech is atypical in that most of the twenty characteristics that Kurz concluded are characteristics of great classic farewell speeches and the four of biblical speeches were not present with one notably exception: a theological review of history.

Perhaps Stephen recognizing he was about to die composed his speech inspired in part by the last speech of Mattathias. Certainly, Mattathias has set forth some inspirational examples. Earlier, Stephen had stated that that Abraham lived in the land “yet he [God] gave him no inheritance in it” using the Greek word κληρονομία for inheritance. Mattathias specifically notes that Caleb received an inheritance κληρονομίαν in the land. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who reported favorably. They were the only ones of the all of the people who left Egypt who were permitted to enter the promised land. Caleb was the leader of the Israelites after Joshua and is buried with Joshua in Samaria. Caleb is not mentioned by name by Stephen because his inheritance was Hebron and the region around it which was in Judea.

Stephen’s use of the Righteous One as a term for Jesus may have been influenced by the last speech of Mattathias. Although Paul developed his argument about righteousness of Abraham from Genesis 15:6, the statement in Mattathias's last speech, and also Jubilees 23:10, does demonstrate that first century Judaism considered Abraham to be a model of obedience to God. Unlike Mattathias and Paul, Stephen makes no mention of the righteousness of Abraham.

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sailing with Castor and Pollux

At the beginning of the description of Paul’s stay in Athens, it was stated he was deeply disturbed that the city was full of idols. With this notice, the First Reader is informed that Paul and the followers of Jesus are concerned about idolatry. There were earlier clues that the anti-idol polemic was a theme in Acts of the Apostles but this is the first broadcast.

The theme reaches its conclusion in Acts 28:11 where we read: “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign (figurehead) was Castor and Pollux (the Twin Brothers of Zeus).” This ship transported Paul on the final section of his sea voyage from Malta to Italy. Castor and Pollux were considered the patron deities of seamen and voyagers. but the figurehead was made by human hands. It was a reminder that Paul lived in a world where idols existed but “gods made by human hands are not gods.”

Paul the prisoner on his journey to Caesar had managed to save 276 lives. “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place [at the cross], he praised God, and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’” But there is no record of what the centurion escorting Paul to Rome included in his report to the emperor about his prisoner. No doubt he was speechless.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Holiness of space

Stephen makes a very important argument about the holiness of space. Stephen has recognized that the Samaritans have emphasized the importance of the holiness of space in their Tenth Commandment, a concept that is absent in the MT version of the Ten Commandments. Commentators have focused on the argument that Stephen is objecting to the building of a temple citing verse 48 that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands” when the reality is that Stephen is objecting to the very concept of holiness of space. The notion that certain areas are inherently holy is a pagan concept.

Verse 33 with its directive “Take off the shoes from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” more accurately expresses the viewpoint of Stephen. This spot was only holy because the Lord was speaking to Moses. This spot lost its holiness when the theophany of the burning bush concluded. The Lord did not direct Moses to construct anything at this unknown spot. As Nahum Sarna stated: “It is solely the theophany that temporarily imparts sanctity to the site, rendering it inaccessible to man.”

The Tenth Commandment of the Samaritans reflects the Samaritans greater interest, relative to the Judeans, in the holiness of space and their space on Mount Gerizim. Judaism, perhaps due to the destruction of the Temple, has since 70 CE emphasized the holiness of time, including the Sabbath and the festivals. “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” is the first instance in scripture where the word “holy” is used. There is nothing in the record of creation set forth in Genesis identifying any object in space with the quality of holiness.

Two additional verses uttered by Stephen provide additional support for the argument that Stephen was criticizing the holiness of space. “Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” The first part is from Isaiah 66:1. These two verses follow “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands” and demonstrates since everything was made by God, nothing made by man could be made holy.

Stephen, if he were a Samaritan, would not have been critical of the theology of the holiness of space embraced by the Samaritans. Stephen was probably not a Samaritan in good standing but he was certainly knowledgeable about the SP. Stephen used his knowledge of the SP and the beliefs of the Samaritans to develop his devastating attack. Thus it appears that Stephen has challenged a belief structure held by both the Samaritans and the Judeans at the time of his speech. This viewpoint was certainly radical when expressed by Stephen in 37 CE.

This finding may also suggest that the final revisions of the MT occurred after the destruction of the Temple and that the Samaritan Pentateuch is older than believed. This finding is supported by the observation of Moses Gaster that the Septuagint version of Exodus 20 is inexplicably closer to the SP than to the MT.

The last paragraph of my Geography of Salvation noted that the Samaritan Commandment about sacred space and place provided Stephen the inspiration for his last speech. He equated the making of the golden calf with the construction of the temple. Stephen also recognized that two related beliefs were idolatrous: that God resided in the Temple created by man and that the Holy of Holies was holy ground. It sanctified a pagan concept that certain areas are inherently holy. The audience understood the implications of the speech. They considered what Stephen said to be blasphemous. No wonder that stoned Stephen.

My comments in Geography of Salvation, Samaritan Pentateuch, Living Oracles, and the Holiness of Space have demonstrated that there is in fact a theological significance to the Samaritan influences noted in Stephen’s last speech.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007